Women lead here

Supporting a growing leadership-focused community, a women’s empowerment organization gears up for Southwestern Ontario’s largest women’s conference

Photo (from left): Jennifer Slay, Courtney Hance and Melissa Maloney of All Women L.E.A.D.

CREATED AS A source of support for women in all areas of business, organizational and life leadership, ALL Women L.E.A.D. has grown significantly since its launch in 2019. Even through the tough-to-engage pandemic years, the group continued to host speaker events virtually, connecting a growing audience with dynamic speakers sharing their experiences of being women.

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Now, that growth is going to be on full display in early 2024 at its annual International Women’s Day celebration. Anchored by Juno Award-winning singer and actress Jully Black as the keynote speaker, the event is promising to be Southwestern Ontario’s largest ever women’s empowerment event.

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“We’re expecting well over 500 people, primarily individuals who identify as women, but also non-women allies,” says Jennifer Slay, who is co-hosting the event along with Melissa Maloney and Courtney Hance. The hybrid event will take place on March 4, 2024 — in-person at RBC Place London and joined virtually by participants from across the globe.

Maloney, a vice president with TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, and Slay, who is director of diversity, equity, inclusion and decolonization at King’s University College, were the original co-founders of All Women L.E.A.D. Hance, who is founder and chief creative officer of The Branding Firm Inc., has supported the organization since its inception and officially joined as a co-host and co-owner this past August. “When we knew we were looking to scale up, it made a lot of sense to expand our leadership team and bring Courtney on board,” says Maloney.

“Diversity is very important to us. You will never come to any event where you won’t see someone who is like you” —Jennifer Slay

Most of the organization’s growth since inception has happened organically, building off the initial success of the inaugural All Women L.E.A.D. workshop series and Women’s Day event early in 2020. According to Slay, early participants appreciated a new opportunity to connect with likeminded people to discuss the actions that had helped them achieve their successes. “We often heard people say it would be so great to continue these conversations and connections,” she says.

In September 2022, All Women L.E.A.D. introduced the “Authentically Yours” virtual community hub, which has attracted members from across Canada, the U.S. and as far away as Australia. Conceived as a way to build connectivity in a virtual world, the hub quickly developed into a membership portal providing its audience with a contained online environment in which to network, share resources and ask for support in developing business opportunities.

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The membership hub also serves as a safe space for members to discuss current issues and things that are happening in their lives. Members, who pay a monthly $5.99 subscription fee, can also attend All Women L.E.A.D. virtual sessions at no cost and receive discounts for in-person events.

All Women L.E.A.D. continues to host quarterly speaker panels for both members and the broader community that are focused on empowering women to take on leadership roles and, once there, to continue to learn, grow and share. The summer, fall and winter events are fully virtual, with the hybrid International Women’s Day celebration providing an opportunity to connect face-to-face.

“Despite the challenges and obstacles women can face, we still manage to achieve and lead,” says Maloney. “It is not accidental or lucky. This year’s speakers will discuss the strategies, intentions and actions that helped them move forward and achieve successes in both life and career.”

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In addition to Black, the speaker lineup includes fitness professional and chief operating officer at Canadian Fitness Professionals Inc. Mo Hagan, My Skin Global founder and president Francoise Mbabazi, and Surria Fadel, co-founder of food production company Cedar Valley. “We’re setting up a baby grand piano,” Hance adds, “and Jully will sing as well as speak so we couldn’t be more excited for this exceptional line-up of speakers and for the experience it will create for all attendees.”

The International Women’s Day program will also feature Indigenous elder Mary Lou Smoke, community leader Mojdeh Cox and deejay Zahra Habib. “Diversity is very important to us,” stresses Slay. “You will never come to any event where you won’t see someone who is like you.” Women lead here women Events Kym Wolfe

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